Im actually going abroad and happen to have a D40x collecting dust (we bought it a long time ago, not used in a long time). It needs to be cleaned to be used and im not that knowledgeable regarding photography.

Im currently thinking if i get this clean and bring it. Or just rely on my cellphone (and what photos my co-travelers take). How does the end result of a camera like D40x stand up to a modern cellphone? Would it still be superior due to optics and so forth (despite pixel deficit and so forth)?

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    I guess it would depend a lot on which lenses you have. Could you edit that info into the question? – lijat Apr 24 '19 at 20:08
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    Stand up in what way? – Please Read My Profile Apr 24 '19 at 20:27
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    Which cell phone? There are "modern" budget cellphones with useless cameras. Also, in what way are your cellphone pictures deficient that you feel the DSLR might be able to do better? – xiota Apr 24 '19 at 22:47
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    Regardless of how "good" a camera is, if you're not familiar with how to use it, there's a good chance you won't be able to get acceptable results with it. Someone more familiar with Canon cameras told me that my camera (FujiFilm) is "difficult" to use, whereas, I think the opposite. – xiota Apr 24 '19 at 22:52
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    @mattdm it would be fun to try and measure camera quality in "instagram reach coefficient" :) And BTW, a D40x if not used with a vertical grip is likely to stand up if no overly heavy lens is used, whereas most smartphones will literally fall flat. – rackandboneman Apr 25 '19 at 15:09

Bring both, and compare results afterwards. You're likely to find that the answer is not as black-and-white as you'd expect, and very dependent on the subject and scene at hand. Also compare the output on mobile screen, good computer screen, and maybe a few prints.

One thing to be aware of is that cellphone cameras tend to try and give you the kind of result that you'd get from using a semi-professional camera and aggressively processing it, cranking up color saturation, noise reduction and sharpening even in "standard" picture modes (the "standard" profile of some phones is more "brutal" than the "vivid" of many dedicated cameras).

Handheld night photography performance of current state-of-the-art smartphones seems surprisingly good (you probably will struggle to match it unless you have a VR-assisted and/or very fast lens on the Nikon), but the pictures tend to fall apart from over-aggressive noise reduction when viewed on a full size monitor....

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  • Handheld night photography performance of current state-of-the-art smartphones seems surprisingly good [...] but the pictures tend to fall apart from over-aggressive noise reduction when viewed on a full size monitor - Google's Pixel-Phones are very impressive in this regard. I own a first-gen Pixel and had a try at the Night mode after someone told me about it (I rarely use my phone to shoot). There is incredibly little noise, but of course, it only works well with still photography. – flolilo Apr 25 '19 at 14:02
  • Comparing Samsung S9: Night photos look great on a phone screen, horribly overprocessed on a monitor.... – rackandboneman Apr 25 '19 at 15:07
  • A friend of mine has a Oneaplus 6(T?) and tried the same thing next to me - his photos looked bad, too. But still: holding still for 2 seconds is a big price to pay, and the results are stunningly good for the conditions, but my go-to-solution would still be a better light source ;-) – flolilo Apr 25 '19 at 15:34
  • Phone photos in low light may be bad, but so are DSLR photos in low light with old sensors. On my D40 I never go above ISO 400 because the results are so bad. The D40X sensor isn't the same, but I don't know whether it has better high ISO performance. – Peter Taylor Apr 26 '19 at 22:23

In my experience, the more you practice photography and the longer you work with any (DSLR) camera, the better the results.

Technically, in most "normal" conditions and with a proper lens, your DSLR will outperform a smartphone.

But how comfortable are you with your Nikon? What is the reason it is gathering dust? And how important are "technically superior images" if you don't enjoy making them? Are you willing to carry around that DSLR on a trip where everyone travels light, has their hands free and is taking pictures with a snap of their smartphones?

My feeling is that, because your DSLR is already gathering dust, that you're better off taking your smartphone, just like your colleagues. This will spare you the cost of cleaning and improve your mobility on the trip...

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